In the Age of Convenience, it’s no surprise that books have fallen by the wayside to make room for electronic readers like the Kindle and apps like iBooks. These products are geared towards simplifying your life by aggregating all your favorite stories into one simple handheld device in place of you having to lug a suitcase full of books through the airport or devote an entire wall to stories you haven’t perused in years.
And I get it. Those products clearly make things easier and more convenient, especially when you read books as frequently as I do.
But despite the technological advances, I still read books, and I don’t just mean stories. I mean actual books. I mean a bunch of pieces of paper covered in ink and stuffed between either two slightly stronger pieces of paper or two pieces of cardboard, such as the stack of books pictured above that I recently brought with me on a trip to Australia.
There is no replacing the physical sensations: the weight of a leather bound volume in your hand, the scratch of each page as it slips through your fingers, and the smell that wafts out of an old novel, beckoning your forth to read the stories within, as so many others have before you. For me nothing replaces being able to build a physical library of stories that reshape and redefine you with each read, a visual monument to the tales you’ve joined over time, books acting as medals for tales you’ve traveled.
And then there’s that irreplaceable moment when you pull a book out of your bag, and that spark of a connection stirs when a stranger makes eye contact with your title, their own experience with that tale stirring inside them. I recently made a friend this way when I had the pleasure of going on a tour in Tasmania. 25 travelers were stuffed into a bus bouncing along through cold, temperate rainforests, and while holding my copy of “The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn to see one of the other tour guests, smiling ear to ear, who let me know she how much she enjoyed that same book, how she was already reading through it a second time. And just like that, we were friends.
I’m grateful I had my book, because I know that an e-reader would have masked the identity of the story I had chosen, and that connection with my new friend would never have been made. Stories unite us, and if we mask and hide and keep secret the tales that define us, we will become islands of individuals.
Of course it’s possible to make new friends without sharing in the joy of a mutually loved book, but the speed at which a connection is made and barriers dropped over the mutual love of a shared book is unmatched.
So you can keep your apps and your e-readers, and I’ll hold onto my heavy, ungainly stack of books. Even though it seems like we’re moving towards a world where you won’t have to lift a finger, I refuse to give up my books for the sake of convenience. When the world is nothing but wearables, apps, and cyborgs, you will find me deep within the pages of a heavy, musky book, with a big smile plastered across my face.